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Responding to a pandemic in 2020

March 19, 2020

Addressing a major pandemic such as COVID-19 isn’t part of our regular business operations. Risk management preparation can provide support in some aspects, but much of the year required us to be flexible and quickly adapt to the ever-changing regulations, recommended protocols and overall uncertainty.

Since the pandemic took hold, our focus has been to minimize the risk to employee health, safety and well-being, support our local Co-ops and continue to serve our communities. We created a cross-functional Pandemic Team, which worked to develop processes to limit the speed and spread of the virus, continue critical business operations, motivate employees to take action and focused on achieving our business goals.

Providing essential services

FCL and local Co-ops provide essential services to Western Canadians and have continued to operate throughout the pandemic’s duration. To safely accommodate this, FCL increased cleaning at all of its facilities.

Additional precautions such as non-invasive temperature checks were introduced at distribution centres to protect our workforce. To address the shortages in hand sanitizer, FCL partnered with the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre and Black Fox Farm and Distillery to begin production to accommodate our needs.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on our supply chain. Manufacturers temporarily halted production on an unprecedented number of items to focus on core products and placed allocations on high-demand products. Supply was also impacted by shipping delays, packaging shortages and labour challenges.

The increased demand from consumers meant increased workloads at the distribution centres in the early days of the pandemic. For example, on a typical Saturday, we usually ship 761,000 kilograms of product from FCL Distribution Centres. We were shipping 1.38 million kilograms by mid-March and 1.56 million kilograms by the end of March.

Team member and local Co-op support.

FCL established an internal cross-functional Pandemic Team to help develop procedures to protect our team members and continue to operate safely. Efforts included transitioning office team members to remote work from home before large-scale shutdowns were announced across Western Canada, then developing a Back to Better Plan and piloting protocols for returning to office work. For employees required to continue working on-site — including at the CRC, distribution centres, logistics network and elsewhere — specific practices and measures were implemented to ensure health and safety were maintained.

FCL also worked to stay informed on the differing provincial responses to COVID-19 in order to provide relevant advice to local Co-ops in multiple areas, including human resources, marketing and communications, health and safety, and store operations. We communicated regularly about product availability, sourced alternative items, provided in-store marketing materials encouraging preventative measures and facilitated sourcing personal protective equipment and safety materials to separate customers from employees at checkouts.

Co-op’s response to the pandemic has been and will continue to be true to our fundamental principles of being co-operative and community based.